Pirro tops ALMS test day in Utah
Emanuele Pirro put Drayson Racing at the top of the timesheets for the first time in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n with a lap of 1:36.295 in testing for the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix on Friday. The Italian star, a late driver substitution for injured team owner Paul Drayson, set his time on the 20th of the Lola B09/60-Judd’s 25 laps around Miller Motorsports Park.
Pirro, an overall winner at Utah with the Audi factory team in 2006, will drive the closed-top prototype with Drayson regular Jonny Cocker. The five-time Le Mans winner was the team’s third driver at Sebring, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the Le Mans 24 Hours earlier this year.
The Drayson entry led a sweep of the top three times for Lola chassis. Chris Dyson was second-quickest at 1:36.748 in the Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupe that he will drive with Guy Smith. The Dyson entry is running in Castrol colors for the first time this year. Smith had set the early pace before Cocker, Dyson and Pirro swapped fast laps.
Intersport Racing’s Jon Field was third quickest at 1:36.909. He will drive Intersport’s Lola B06/10-AER with son Clint. The top three cars were separated by just 0.614 seconds.
G-Oil’s Green Earth Team Gunnar went quickest in LMP Challenge, courtesy of Gunnar Jeannette’s lap of 1:43.682 in the ORECA FLM09 that he will drive with Christian Zugel. The former Panoz factory pilot was 1.171 seconds clear of Level 5 Motorsports’ Christophe Bouchut; he will drive with team owner Scott Tucker.
This is the first race or the new LMPC class at Miller Motorsports Park, and the cars were impressive in their first time out. Only 0.963 seconds separated the second- through fifth-placed cars in class. Level 5’s second entry was third fastest with Andy Wallace’s lap of 1:45.229.
Risi Competizione’s Gimmi Bruni set the fastest time in GT with a lap of 1:47.442 in the Ferrari F430 GT that he will drive with Jaime Melo. Bruni led a Risi 1-2 in the standings with Toni Vilander only 0.873 seconds back in the Ferrari he will drive with current Ferrari Formula 1 reserve driver Giancarlo Fisichella. Both Vilander and Fisichella are competing at Miller Motorsports Park for the first time, and Fisichella is racing in the U.S. for the first time since the F1 2007 US Grand Prix.
Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Jörg Bergmeister was third in class with a lap of 1:48.534 in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR that he will share with Patrick Long. Bergmeister is the only driver in the field to win more than once in the Series at Utah, and the Bergmeister/Long pairing won last year’s race.
In GT Challenge, Bryce Miller was fastest for Orbit Racing in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car that he will drive with Luke Hines. Miller was a scant 0.055 seconds better than Butch Leitzinger’s best lap in one of three Alex Job Racing cars.
The GTC class was the tightest of the day with the top seven cars within 0.987 seconds. Jeroen Bleekemolen, who won with brother Sebastian and Black Swan Racing team owner Tim Pappas, was third quickest in class Friday at 1:55.038.
Saturday’s first official practice session is set for 9:30 a.m. MT with qualifying set for 2:50 p.m. later in the day. Live video coverage of qualifying will be available on americanlemans.com
The American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n field is ready to kick off the summer stint with the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park. The two-hour, 45-minute race will begin at 2:35 p.m. MT on Sunday, July 11, with coverage beginning on SPEED at 4:30 p.m. ET. Live radio coverage will be available on American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche – a production of Radio Show Limited – as well as Sirius Channel 127 and XM Channel 242. Visit the Series’ schedule page for ticket and accommodation information. Live Timing and Scoring, track schedule, entry list and much, much more will be available on Racehub at americanlemans.com.
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Emanuele Pirro, Drayson Racing
Lola B09/60-Judd (LMP)
“We had a great test earlier in the week which has helped tremendously. It feels good to start with such a solid base, and that was not the case at Le Mans and Mazda Raceway before. We still need to optimize some things but we are in much better shape than before. The target now is to get a car that is gentle on the tires and one that is easy to drive. We need the car to be consistent.”
Giancarlo Fisichella, Risi Competizione
Ferrari F430 GT (GT)
“The first few laps, it was difficult to find the right line and braking points. But lap after lap, I was getting better and feeling more comfortable. By the end, I was closer to the laps of the other competitors. I’m very glad to be racing here although it is not easy to find braking and reference points because it is so wide-open. It’s also quite hot, but that’s part of the job!”
Joey Hand, BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team
BMW M3 GT (GT)
“I think we’ve made tremendous gains. It may not show completely in the times, but I think we’ve made tons of advancements in tires and dampers.re We’re doing so far what we need to be doing. Our engineers are hitting the changes we need a lot closer this time around.”
Gunnar Jeannette, G-Oil Green Earth Team Gunnar
ORECA FLM09 (LMPC)
“We found a decent setup that works. It’s the same spring package we were on at Laguna. There are still a lot of improvements we can make. We can gain on speed and consistency. It’s important to keep things close in the championship. But we’re only three races into the season and there is a long way to go. I’m not thinking too much about it right now.”
Bryce Miller, Orbit Racing
Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (GTC)
“The last two days were very beneficial for us. We could still improve on the oversteer condition we have; at Mazda Raceway we ran a different configuration that had an understeer. So we have to work on keeping the tires underneath us. We’re playing around with some aero but I’m not sure how much it will help with the high elevation. We haven’t seen the results we were expecting. But we are happy with the long runs we had and that is good for the race. Now we can go work toward a little bit more speed.”